Arts·Canada's a Drag

Who run the world? Vancouver drag mother Shay Dior and her growing family of queer Asian kids

Meet the androgynous drag performer creating a safe haven within Vancouver's LGBTQ scene.

Meet the androgynous drag performer creating a safe haven within Vancouver's LGBTQ scene

Shay Dior is just one of the many fabulous subjects featured in Canada's a Drag, a docu-series from CBC Arts that showcases drag artists from across the true North strong and fierce. You can watch all three seasons here.​

Shay Dior defines their drag as a "big spicy hotpot" with three equal parts: cultural representation and fashion, the dismantling of gender stereotypes and politics...and oversexualized video game and anime villains.

Warning: the video below contains flashing images.

Series Producers: Mercedes Grundy and Peter Knegt
Episode Director: Josephine Anderson
Episode Cinematographer: Avery Holiday
Episode Editor: Tavi Parusel
Episode Production Assistant: Dominique Wakeland
Packaging Editor: Kiah Welsh
Titles Designer: Hope Little

"As a queer Asian revolutionist who identifies as genderfluid, my drag focuses on the intersectionality of my identities and aims to equally showcase each one," Shay says. "Plus, I have eight hot Asian kids and I can still wear couture!"

What Shay means by "kids" is that she is the mother of the House of Rice, an all-Asian drag family in Vancouver which counts eight members as Shay's children. Shay also founded Ricecake, the city's only queer Asian party. It's open to everyone but celebrates queer Asian talent by showcasing DJs, performers and gogo dancers, both local and international. 

Shay Dior with the House of Rice (CBC Arts)

"I received a lot of feedback from people that come to Ricecake and said they didn't know that this is something that they wanted, but it was something that they needed. I love making people happy and connecting good people with good people. I just want to provide inspiration for other queer Asians to see people like them, and to know that they are able to be queer and able to explore themselves."

Shay says a lot of the children in the House of Rice come from intensely homophobic backgrounds, making their space in the Vancouver community an even more necessary safe haven.

"My daughters Valak and Nikita, they are from mainland China," Shay says. "Anything gay is censored over in China and their parents would not be okay whatsoever with anything they're doing. It hurts me to think about that. But at the same time, if I'd never done Ricecake or if I had never brought them into the House of Rice...they might have just led this very straight, narrow-minded life and not have been able to see the magic that they have in themselves."

Shay says the House shares a common goal of working toward a bright future for the queer Asian community.

"We want to amass an army of Asian performers," Shay says — "to take over the world!"

And what a wonderful world that would be.

Follow Shay Dior on Instagram and meet the other kings, queens and in betweens in the third season of Canada's a Drag, streaming now on CBC Gem.


Peter Knegt (he/him) has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada and nominated again this year) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.